The degrees offered are the master of arts in Portuguese & Spanish and the doctor of philosophy with a major in Portuguese & Spanish. In addition, the department offers a doctoral minor in Spanish or Portuguese, consisting of nine credits of graduate study.

An integrated curriculum in Portuguese and Spanish languages, literatures, and linguistics provides training at the master's and PhD levels and assures that graduates are prepared to contribute as professionals in the fields of teaching and research. An active program of research contributes to new knowledge in Spanish and Portuguese. A comprehensive group of courses is offered in rotation during the academic year so that candidates may take courses in all fields. Classes are conducted in Portuguese and Spanish.

The department's graduate program in Portuguese & Spanish is consistently among the finest in the country. Twenty to 25 teaching assistantships are offered each year to graduate candidates in Spanish and Portuguese. A full complement of courses in Portuguese, Brazilian, and Luso-African literatures, culture, and linguistics is offered on a regular basis.

Fellowships, scholarships, teaching assistantships, and project assistantships are available to qualified graduate degree candidates.

Students pursuing advanced degrees in this department are advised to include in their training work in other languages and literatures, art, social sciences, linguistics, film studies, and philosophy. A knowledge of other languages is strongly recommended for advanced work in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian fields.


Please consult the table below for key information about this degree program’s admissions requirements. The program may have more detailed admissions requirements, which can be found below the table or on the program’s website.

Graduate admissions is a two-step process between academic programs and the Graduate School. Applicants must meet the minimum requirements of the Graduate School as well as the program(s). Once you have researched the graduate program(s) you are interested in, apply online.

Fall Deadline January 5
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Not required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not exclusively in English, must provide an English proficiency test score earned within two years of the anticipated term of enrollment. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Requirements for Admission policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1241.
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Application Details

Applicants are masters of art (MA) students in Portuguese & Spanish at the University of Wisconsin–Madison with a graduate GPA of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). Applicants are admitted to the PhD program on the recommendation of the master's examining committee upon successful completion of the portfolio requirement.

Applicants with a masters of art (MA) from an external institution are admitted to the doctoral program by virtue of his/her acceptance by the department. A minimum graduate GPA of 3.4 (on a 4.0 scale) is required. 

Applicants will be asked to supply supplementary information regarding courses taken previously, experience abroad, scope of readings in Portuguese and Brazilian literatures, and preparation in linguistics.

Required Documentation

Applicants must upload the following materials to the online application:

  • Unofficial transcripts;
    • Certified copies of English translations should accompany all non-English transcripts;
  • Reason for Graduate Study/Statement of Purpose: What are your reasons for graduate study? Please describe your current degree goals and your reasons for selecting your program(s). Your statement can be either in English or the program’s language. It should not exceed three single-spaced pages, or the equivalent when double-spaced.
  • A writing sample in Portuguese (eg, a term-paper length), eight to ten pages. The topic should be as close as possible to the field you wish to specialize in for the PhD thesis.
  • Three letters of recommendation (recommenders to submit on applicant's behalf);
  • International degree-seeking applicants must prove English proficiency, refer to the Graduate School's requirements.

Applicants may refer to the Graduate School's admissions page for application assistance and frequently asked questions.


Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements

Mode of Instruction

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 54 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 28 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1203.
Other Grade Requirements No other grade requirements.
Assessments and Examinations Preliminary Examinations

Students must take after course requirements are met. The prelim has two parts: a written part and an oral part. The written part of the exam has two components:
  • 1) a series of take-home exams and
  • 2) a 5 to 10-page dissertation prospectus plus bibliography.

An oral examination defense follows the written portions of the Preliminary Examination. The oral exam defense is approximately two hours long, at the discretion of the examining committee. It should cover both the take-home examinations and the dissertation prospectus. The candidate will receive a grade of pass or fail in the preliminary examination. In the case of failing the exam, it could be retaken once within a month (after consultation with the adviser). Should the dissertation prospectus be approved, the candidate will have a maximum of three months to officially defend a dissertation proposal.

The Doctoral Dissertation

The final oral examination for the PhD (the dissertation defense) will concentrate solely on the dissertation and generally does not exceed two hours in length. The examining committee is composed a minimum of four members, at least one of whom must be from outside the student’s program in Portuguese Spanish, and at least three of whom, including the dissertation director, should be designated as readers. This examination is held at least two weeks after the dissertation is submitted.
Language Requirements A knowledge of several languages is essential for doctoral research. Therefore, students are urged to fulfill the language requirements as early as possible in their doctoral studies. In any case, they must be fulfilled prior to the Preliminary Examination. The candidate must demonstrate advanced proficiency in a minimum of one language besides Spanish and Portuguese, to be determined in consultation with the adviser. The most common languages are French, Italian, Latin, German, and Arabic, depending on the candidate's major and minor. Advanced proficiency is defined as six college semesters with a grade of B or better. An advanced pass on the UW Division of University Outreach, Liberal Studies Reading Knowledge Examinations in French and German for graduate students will be accepted as an alternative. Exceptions to the above policies may be petitioned by the adviser to the Departmental Committee.
Graduate School Breadth Requirement A doctoral minor or graduate/professional certificate is not required. Students are required to complete between 18-21 credits in coursework taken in Spanish. All these credits must be taken as an advanced level course, numbered 600 or above.

Required Courses

The Portuguese & Spanish PhD program in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers the following areas of study:

  1. Portuguese Literature
  2. Brazilian Literature
  3. African Literature in Portuguese
  4. Hispanic Literature or Linguistics

Student selects a major area, which is the area of specialization. Students are expected to have a thorough knowledge of the current, primary works and critical bibliography pertaining to the area of specialization. Knowledge of the most significant writers and works as well as the most important currents and developments in the supporting fields is expected.

Major Area9
Supporting Field 16
Supporting Field 26
Literary Theory3
Advanced CoursesMinimum of 5 courses
Total Credits54

Two-Course Per Semester Requirement

Students must take a minimum of two graduate-level courses in Portuguese and/or Spanish for credit each semester, excluding Independent Reading (PORTUG 899 Independent Reading) courses, with the following exceptions:

  1. The semester before taking the preliminary examination, a student may apply one instance of PORTUG 899 Independent Reading toward their dissertation proposal as one of the two graduate-level courses in Portuguese and/or Spanish if a second course is taken in the department. This exception may be granted only once despite delays in the preliminary examination.
  2. Audited courses do not satisfy the requirement.
  3. If this requirement delays the student's progress toward degree completion, a petition with advisor approval may be submitted. This is not applicable to students who have passed their preliminary examination.

Independent Study

A maximum of 3 credits of independent study (PORTUG 899 Independent Reading) in each of the areas of concentration may be used, with prior departmental approval, when corresponding courses are not offered in a timely fashion.

Advanced Courses

An advanced course is defined as a course numbered 600 or above in Spanish and numbered 400 or above, in Portuguese. In consultation with their advisor, students should ensure that they have a minimum of five advanced courses beyond the MA, if completed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or six advanced course beyond the MA if completed at another institution. At least two of these courses must be in the major. One of these advanced courses may be taken outside the Department, with the advisor's consent.


The following courses do not satisfy the PhD course requirements:

PORTUG 311 Fourth Year Composition and Conversation3
PORTUG 312 Fourth Year Composition and Conversation3
PORTUG 330 History of the Portuguese Language3
PORTUG 361 Portuguese Civilization3
PORTUG 362 Brazilian Civilization3

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions

After one semester in residence, incoming PhD graduate students from other universities may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to transfer graduate credits taken at their previous university to satisfy program requirements. A maximum of three courses (9 credits) may be transferred from their previous program toward their degree requirements, 6 of these credits may transfer to satisfy the supporting field requirements (3 credits per field) and the remaining 3 credits may satisfy language or other requirements, except for major field credit requirements. Each petition must be approved by the advisor, validated by a faculty member specializing in that field, and assessed by the Graduate Studies Committee with regard to its level and appropriateness. Only in rare circumstances will exceptions be considered.

Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

With advisor consent, a student may petition to transfer up to 7 credits from another institution or numbered 300 or above with the "Grad 50%" attribute from the undergraduate career completed at UW-Madison. Credits earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree are not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.

Credits Earned as a University Special Student at UW–Madison

With program approval, students may transfer no more than 6 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. However, these credits are not allowed to count toward the 50% graduate coursework minimum unless numbered 700 or above or are taken to meet the requirements of a capstone certificate and has the “Grad 50%” attribute. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


Satisfactory progress depends on:

  1. Maintaining a GPA of at least 3.0, adhering to the rule whereby students must take two courses within the department (or have the rule waived by petition), and
  2. Fulfilling all academic requirements.

Students who are not in good standing will not be given sections to teach as Teaching Assistants, and those whose GPA goes below 3.0 are put on academic probation. If a semester of 3.0 is not attained during the subsequent semester, the student may be dismissed from the program.

Advisor / Committee

The doctoral candidate arranges their program with an assigned graduate advisor, representing one of the areas of concentration, at the beginning of their studies in this department. The advisor represents a field in which the student has expressed primary interest. The candidate may, of course, seek advice and suggestions from individual professors, but it is important to maintain frequent and ongoing contact with the regular advisor. At the beginning of the second semester in residence the academic advisor and the candidate make a detailed review of the first semester's progress.

All students must have a substantial meeting with their advisor every semester to review their progress and work out the best strategies for future coursework and degree progress.

Credits Per Term Allowed

15 credits

Time Limits

The Department of Spanish and Portuguese enforces the Graduate School policy that establishes a five-year deadline for completion and defense of the doctoral dissertation, unless they receive an extension. If the candidate does not complete the dissertation within five years of the preliminary examination, the candidate must retake this examination.

Refer to the Graduate School: Time Limits policy.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


Guaranteed funding through teaching assistantships. Many additional sources of funding are available on a competitive basis, including the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, summer research Mellon fellowships, one-semester dissertation fellowships, Title VI FLAS fellowships for summer and year-long foreign language study, Nave summer research travel grants, and numerous others.

Professional Development

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Learning Outcomes

  1. Articulate research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge and practice within the field of study and with a view to interdisciplinarity.
  2. Formulates ideas, concepts, and theoretical approaches beyond the current boundaries of knowledge and practice within the field of study, and thus makes a substantial contributions to those fields.
  3. Develops archival and/or bibliographic research skills or other evidence-gathering techniques with the aim of furthering historical and cultural knowledge of the specific field of inquiry.
  4. Demonstrates breadth within learning experiences.
  5. Advances contributions of the field of study to society.
  6. Communicates complex ideas and original arguments clearly and understandably in Portuguese, Spanish, and English and demonstrates reading knowledge of one other languages pertinent to the field of inquiry.
  7. Develops academic professionalization through scholarly exchange and/or participation in conferences and other extracurricular activities in preparation for a career path related to the field.
  8. Develops and demonstrates effective teaching skills (for intermediate and advanced classes in Portuguese and Spanish).


Spanish Faculty: Professors Beilin (modern Spanish literature), Bilbija (modern Spanish American literature), Close (modern Spanish American/trans-Atlantic literature), De Ferrari (modern Spanish American literature), Egea (modern Spanish literature), Hutchinson (Golden Age literature), Medina (modern Spanish American literature), Podestá (colonial Spanish American literature); Associate Professors Alcalá-Galán (Golden Age literature), Ancos-García (medieval Spanish literature), Goldgel-Carballo (colonial Spanish American literature), Hernández (modern Spanish American literature), Pellegrini (modern Spanish American literature), Rao (Spanish linguistics), Stafford (second language acquisition and linguistics), Tejedo-Herrero (Spanish linguistics); Assistant Professors Armstrong (Spanish linguistics), Cerezo Paredes (modern Spanish literature), 

Portuguese Faculty: Professors Sapega (Portuguese and Luso-African literature and culture) and Sanchez (Portuguese and Brazilian literature and culture).